Yet Another ARRL Opinion

For the first time in my amateur radio career, I’m beginning to look upon ARRL unfavorably.  About 15 years ago after I acquired a lifetime subscription, my grandfather chastised me saying I’d eventually grow tired of the League and would regret my subscription.  I’m sad to say I think that day may have come.

Over the years I’ve defended ARRL, in both in person conversations and online.  ARRL attracts a lot of haters, often unfairly, for wrong reasons.  For example, I’ve witnessed many hams hate ARRL, claiming they don’t like CW and worked to eliminate it, despite ARRL supporting code testing for Extra licensing in their FCC comments filings years ago, and offering daily code bulletins and practice over the air.  Despite ARRL’s faults and shortcomings, amateur radio would not be where it is today, and perhaps not even exist, if it wasn’t for ARRL.

With the recent Code of Conduct and censure incident and the proposed voting and membership changes, I’m left with the impression of an organization that is closed, secretive, adverse to dissent, and focused on self-preservation.  The Force of 50 debacle points to an organization eager to project to the public a disaster response “photo-op” image that neither the organization or the amateur radio service supports or deserves.  Over the years I’ve personally seen other examples that support these two impressions but never dwelled on them as ARRL garnered my utmost respect as I felt that the League, despite its flaws, in general was taking amateur radio in the right direction.  I no longer have that confidence in the organization.

While I could end my diatribe with the paragraph above, I really want to explore or ask, what is the solution to “fixing” ARRL?  ARRL does a great job with publications and education, contesting, and lobbying the FCC.  Does the large and seemingly complicated hierarchal governance structure really serve a purpose today?  It appears that structure is geared more towards emergency communications initiatives than an effective membership feedback vehicle or advancing the radio art.  Is this structure the problem and ARRL needs to be transformed into more of a flat, responsive, grass-roots kind of organization?

This article was originally published at Radio Artisan.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com.

14 Responses to “Yet Another ARRL Opinion”

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    The ARRL has done a lot of good and done some really stupid things. Incentive licensing was one and almost killed ham radio. The good has been protecting our bands and even adding a few items… That all said the ARRL is now becoming a bloated bureaucracy of over paid hacks. IMHO the ARRL needs to look at the over staffing it has based on what the real goal of the organization really is and is suppose to do.

    I have been a ham since 1964. I have seen the ARRL grow to a size that as far as I am concern is too big to manage effectively. I am a member and most likely will be. I am also retired and on fixed income. If they keep increasing the yearly fees to feed the bloated bureaucracy they have become, in a few short years I will be dumping them. I suspect others will do the same.

    This is my 2 cents worth. I might get flamed for this point of view… but then maybe not. Thank you for sharing you feeling Anthony.

    73 and Happy New Year Harry K7ZOV

  • W9CID:

    [email protected], I am a life member of ARRL! I can remember my grandfather’s displeasure back in the 60’s! And his laughter of Wayne Green criticism of the ARRL way back when! I can only imagine what they would say about an organization that makes a rule against anyone that disagree’s and imposes penalties if they speak? Seems extremely un-American!

  • Angelo DePalma, KD2HPQ:

    I’ve am a former member of three other hobby organizations (American Contract Bridge League, US Chess Federation, and National Rifle Association). I quit those organizations but retain ARRL membership.

    As we grow older we find that membership organizations pass us by in terms of what we need from them. For example US Chess is all about youth, but I’m 63 and am tired of tournaments that are little more than daycare centers.

    With ARRL I found, as a new ham, that very few resources are devoted to actually setting up an HF station. Where do the pieces go? What do you plug into what? How do you get on the air relatively cheaply? I’ve also found ARRL’s educational resources to be wanting. They may satisfy experienced operators but not beginners. Maybe I’d be happy today if I’d been licensed for 25 years, but I’m not.

    Not enough emphasis is placed on innovation. When I read a 5 page review on the latest Yaesu 2m/440 HT that does what every other 2m/440 HT does I wonder where this market has been for the last 25 years. Has any HT manufacturer ever heard of touch screens or Android? What does ARRL do to encourage CW besides have daily practice broadcasts? IMO the organization should offer a free, computer-based CW course and offer /CW license upgrades.

    My two cents’ worth.

    Angelo
    KD2HPQ

  • Marc WB2MSC:

    Hey guys and gals,

    There seems to be some controversy regarding the ARRL on this blog. Honestly, I haven’t been keeping up and don’t really know what is going on. I’ve been a ham since 1964 just like Harry but because of living in an apartment with Eaton AFCI circuit breakers, I cannot enjoy the hobby except when the WX is good ( a rarity in Central NJ) and I can operate from the car. But, let’s be careful when we complain about the ARRL and talk of quitting it. One hobby that I am very much into these days is shooting. I am a life member of the NRA.

    This email is not about shooting or the NRA so please don’t turn this blog into a debate on either. I bring my other hobby up because the NRA and the ARRL seem to be identical in structure and purpose.

    If it weren’t for the NRA representing me to Congress as well as to the state assembly, I might have fewer rights (or none at all) to enjoy the shooting sports if the NRA were to disappear.

    While no one (to my knowledge) is trying to regulate Ham Radio to death, the ARRL has been representing me to those who do the regulating and know little about the hobby. No one knows what would happen if the ARRL disappeared. Would we have the spectrum we have now? How about the bill suggesting to Congress that hams should be considered in HOA rules? How about treating mobile hams the same as cell phone users?

    I don’t know much about the political structure of the ARRL any more than I do the NRA. Both are expensive, large organizations. But let’s keep everything in perspective. Marc WB2MSC

  • Tony Everhardt/ N8WAC:

    For the past 2 years I have been interested in getting involved with my county’s ARES program. I have tried to find out numerous times of when the ARES meetings were taking place. After further investigating I found that my county’s ARES has not had a meeting in years (1 meeting in 3 years and still counting). So I contacted the state of Ohio’s Section Manager of my concerns. He told me the submitted paperwork stated there is county activity. I questioned the possibility of doctored paperwork since no meetings have taken place. I was ignored. So I then contacted The Great Lakes Division Director with my concerns along with all the exchanged emails. The buck was passed back to the Section Manager who personally called me on the phone. That began with the SEC being very aggressive to me over the phone. It was requested that a meeting be held with everyone from the EC, DEC, SEC, Great Lakes Director and myself. Knowing that in the good ol boys club I was the bad guy for bringing this issue to light so I declined. They are all aware there hasn’t been any ARES activity. They don’t need a meeting with me to tell someone to start holding ARES meetings. It’s the ARRL’s job to see that rules/guidelines are to be followed. One guy can’t change a few minds that seem unconcerned. Am I sour??? Damn right I’m sour, so I let my membership expire and don’t see in the future of ever renewing.

    N8WAC

  • Ron Wright, N9EE:

    I have been Ham for over 50 years and I have seen ARRL get some in leadership that really rubbed me and many the wrong way, did some slimmy things to it’s board members and others as well. but I have seen those responsible mostly get kicked out or many at ARRL found way to deal with them.

    League sees the League as being first in their thoughts and actions and some let this go to their head.

    In other words dont leave for one reason or time, but stay and help drive things in the right direction. I have found the League is forced to listen. Really the League is what we make it.

  • Rich K4TFT:

    I was a member, maybe selfishly, just for their outgoing qsl bureau. That has gotten soooo expensive, not to mention the yearly dues I no longer am a member. Other than that the ARRL HAS NOT AFFECTED ME, one way or another, as a ham since 1963.

  • Walt N5EQY:

    I renewed again last month, not that i need a book of advertisers with 3 articles that have any bearing to the hobby. I do like the new format of QST but find the whole magazine marginally useful. Since I have no influence on legislators or ARRL [embedded] staff, my opinions are moot. There is little to NO effort spent on the new aspiring ham to assist them and most if the info they publish is so chocked full of abbreviations and slang that the newbies got tired of trying to translate and define the meaning of the hamspeak. It appears that ham radio is being saturated with ‘puter nerds and software pgms that discourage conversations and camaraderie. Band conditions havent helped since the drift toward non-personal contacts like JT/FT contesting. After being a ham for 45 years and living all over the globe and dealing with HOA’s most of my hamming is now with a 20 watt portable HF rig and 2 meter HT’s. SWL is more interesting than the ham bands. GL and DX.73

  • Jeff KJ4RWH:

    I’ve been a member since I got my Tech ticket in 2010 and currently hold my Extra. I thought it was expected to be a member for the good of the hobby. Good I’m sure for the financial health of the ARRL. I’m also a Life member of the NRA and have seen some disturbing parallels in the fund raising of both organizations. The NRA has deeply discounted higher levels of support (Benefactor, Patron, etc)and now I see ARRL is discounting their Diamond Club memberships. Shameful, as it’s all for the generation of capital to cover a bloated administrative burden. Time to trim some dead wood and return to their core mission of promoting the hobby.

  • Tom, KA4CSG:

    “It’s all about the Benjamin’s”. Unfortunately, it takes money to maintain any organization. I get the magazine, enjoy the new format and the one or two articles a month.
    Most Hobby Magazines are losing readership, it is the nature of the times. Social media is a massive disrupter. And, inexpensive Chinese manufacture of almost everything that used to be ‘homebrewed’ is also a dagger in the heart of hands on hobbies.

  • Jack KE4LWT:

    Can you please elaborate on the “Force of 50 debacle” or point me to some articles? I’ve not heard anything more about this other than they came down here and then left.

    73,
    Jack

  • The “Force of 50 debacle” is described here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID4uK8AKq4w . Sorry, it’s long. It was a force of 22 that ARRL sent to Puerto Rico, which turned out to be a poorly organized disaster communications response effort.

  • Andy G3PKW:

    I was amazed to read the comments about ARRL but not surprised.
    Licenced in 1960 I over the years have supported the RSGB and
    have written a number of technical articles but I suspect RSGB
    has also followed the same path as that suggested of the ARRL.
    The comments written in feedback echoed many of the criricism
    which has shadowed the RSGB. I suspect this is not an amateur
    radio phenomenon but is a reflection of the way that society has
    become in general. The affluence which young ones these days enjoy
    has brought with it a lack of respect for others and for life in
    general. Standards in society have been eroded. Sadly modern
    technology with its social media revolution has aggrevated the
    situation. I’m sure many of us have realised this growing effect.

  • Goody K3NG:

    You might have a point about young people and society in general, but I don’t think there are any young people in the ARRL management hierarchy. I would counter that if there were, these issues may not have happened.

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